There is a significant skills deficit in the economy and governments, both federal and state, need to reform the education system to increase and improve the nation’s stock of skilled, knowledge-based workers, according to the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA).

The Australian Small Business White Paper recently launched by the IPA in conjunction with the IPA Deakin University SME Research Partnership, raises concerns over skills deficiencies and the resulting impediments for businesses to innovate.

“Our research shows that one in six small businesses face a skills deficit, and 391,000 businesses are constrained to innovate by a lack of skilled labour, imposing a significant drag on the economy,” said IPA chief executive officer, Andrew Conway (also co-author and chair of the research partnership).

The Australian Small Business White Paper recognises that deficiencies are most apparent amongst trades, but also that many businesses report shortages of professionals in the financial, marketing and IT sectors.

“Our Small Business White Paper suggests that governments should consider the inclusion of business training at all levels of the education system, from early school years through to further and higher education.

“Specifically, we recommend that entrepreneurship programs should be integrated into the National Curriculum at all levels of secondary school.

“STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) should be promoted and financially supported for all secondary school students; and SMEs employing STEM graduates should be incentivised to do so through the provision of a training and development allowance for the first year of employment,” said Mr Conway.

More details of the Australian Small Business White Paper can be found at